I am planning to construct a food forest on some land. One of the people who lived there was an avid shooter, owning many guns and shooting often, to the extent that I have found hundreds of shells from his guns in the soil. I am wondering whether it is a bad option to bother putting energy into cultivating on land that has been contaminated with an unknown but presumably high concentration of lead.
Macus Wojcik : Interesting, I don't really think this is a very serious problem. An old car battery that went dead and then froze and was carelessly discarded is
Probably More likely to be a problem.
I have never heard of any shooting range being declared a Super-fund site.
There are several kinds of plants that are heavy metal collectors, You would need to have two lists, the heavy metal collectors that concentrate lead that you
would never consider as a food type !
And a second one like the edible varieties of Fiddle head ferns, for decades the Canadian Government has been sending out notices to natural foragers to know
the history of the land that they 'pick on'. No tanneries, blacksmith shops or smelters ! Sounds like you have a lot of research to do ! Good luck and good hunting!
For the Crafts Big AL
Success has a Thousand Fathers , Failure is an Orphan
Howdy Marcus, When I go shooting I will shoot into a target with a large backstop, like a large hillside or gully bank. So the lead should be concentrated in the area behind the target. I wouldn't think the lead part of the bullet would be all over your land.
The bullet casings you are finding are usually brass and can be collected and reloaded if they are still in good shape. If they have been laying around for a long time they may be corroded and not reusable. So if you know of someone in your area who reloads ammo you might ask them if they would want them.
How big are the shells you are finding? If they are small 22 caliber size they may not be worth collecting unless you want to use them for a foundry project of some sort.
The UMass soil testing website says that on average uncontaminated soil has 15 to 40 ppm of lead. That works out to there being about 400 pounds of lead in the first three feet of soil on an acre of land.
The substantial 223 round shown below will typically only have about a 4 gram bullet.
Assuming that the bullet is 100% lead (ie: ignoring the copper portion), the previous owner would have had to fire over 45,000 of those bullets to add 400 pounds of lead to the ground.
Metallic lead forms a thin oxide upon exposure to air, essentially preventing any further decomposition of the bulk of the metal underneath. What contaminates the soil are usually lead compounds, like lead chromate in paint. Test the soil to ease your mind, but I strongly doubt you've anything to worry about.
allen lumley wrote:I have never heard of any shooting range being declared a Super-fund site. For the Crafts Big AL
I got a giggle out of this. Probably because we have superfund sites nearby. And they are serious business. (They're downhill from me.)
I do want to add that pill bugs have been noted to take up metals in the soil. They plague my garden in areas, but I believe they have a purpose, so I leave them except when bothering my seedlingsPillbugs
It's worth getting a soil test ($15 through the University of MA) to check the lead level. Lead poisoning at firing ranges is not a trivial problem (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ranges/), though the issue on your property is probably not as severe as in a dedicated commercial or police range.
Try to find where he was shooting and use a sieve to remove the bullets. If you're into shooting, recast them into new bullets, if not, do whatever you do with lead.
I wouldnt worry about it much. If there was one area he used as the target area I would avoid that for food crops but beyond that it should be OK. Hundreds of rounds really isn't a lot.
If it is really that many bullets, there are companies that will come out and collect them to get the lead and brass. Scrape up the topsoil, sift it, and put it back and reseed for you. Rather extreme but a one time fix for you. They can do acres of land.
Lead does not leach from bullets into dirt except at particular pH ranges (which aren't that good for edible plants). Keep the pH balanced and the lead is effectively sequestered.
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